News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 27th December 2002

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the year, and review triumphs and failures. Well we don't do that because we're more interested in the future than the past, so the tradition here is to look forward to what will happen in the West End - all based on hard, solid, um, er, rumour.

Gyles Brandreth will make his West End debut in the composite musical entertainment Zipp!, which does for musical theatre what the Reduced Shakespeare Company does for the Bard (including the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 60 seconds) at the Duchess Theatre . . . Al Murray will bring The Pub Landlord to the Lyric Theatre in Who Dares Wines?. . . Dawn French will return to the stage in Geraldine Aron's monologue My Brilliant Divorce at the Apollo Theatre . . . Thelma Barlow, Michael Richards, Stephen Tomkinson and Marcia Warren will star in Arsenic And Old Lace, Joseph Kesselring's classic black farce about two little old ladies who poison 'sad and lonely old men' as an act of charity and bury them in their basement, at the Strand Theatre . . . Honour, which analyses the failure of a marriage, by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, will receive its UK premiere with Eileen Atkins, Catherine McCormack and Corin Redgrave at the National Theatre - all in February . . . Cliff - The Musical, a biographical compilation show about Cliff Richard, will open at the Prince of Wales Theatre . . Ian McKellen and Frances de la Tour will play a couple who are preparing for their 25th wedding anniversary when a figure from their past reappears in Strindberg's Dance Of Death at the Lyric Theatre . . . The Rat Pack, the compilation show featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr will play a season at the Haymarket Theatre . . . Jreome Flynn stars as Tommy Cooper in John Fisher's play Cooper! Not Like That, Like This, set during Cooper's final performance in a televised variety programme, directed by Simon Callow, choreographed by Lionel Blair, with Geoffrey Durham as magic consultant, will open at Malvern Theatre - all in March . . . Denise Van Outen will star in a revised and extended version of Lloyd Webber and Don Black's song cycle Tell Me On A Sunday, about a the emotional travails of British girl living in New York at the Gielgud Theatre . . . the Off Broadway musical The Bomb-itty Of Errors, a New York rap version of Shakespeare's twin twin comedy The Comedy Of Errors, which was a big hit at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, will open at the New Amnbassadors Theatre . . . Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee's now almost legendary Jerry Springer: The Opera, in which trailer trash sing their stories, will usher in Nicholas Hytner's regime at the National Theatre . . . Hitchcock Blonde, written and directed by Terry Johnson, in which a media lecturer and his female protege discover Hitchcock footage featuring a mysterious blonde in the basement of a Spanish villa, will premiere at the Royal Court Theatre - all in April . . . Ralph Fiennes will make his West End debut in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Ibsen's Brand at the Haymarket Theatre in June . . . Shereden Morley will direct a prospective West End production of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden opening at Windsor, and a revised version of Espresso Bongo, the Wolf Mankowitz-Monty Norman-Julian More-David Heneker 1950s Soho coffee bar culture musical . . . Joan Plowright may return to the West End in Pirandello's Each In His Own Way directed by Franco Zefferelli . . . Ben Elton's Rod Stewart compilation show Tonight's The Night is on course of a West End opening . . . Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music though delayed is still on . . . Lillian Montevecchi and Roy Baraclough will star in a 50th anniversary revival of Sandy Wilson's The Boyfriend opening at Plymouth in the spring . . . a musical based on Bad Girls, the television series set in a women's prison is in development.

On the way from Broadway:

Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis Tony Award winning musical Urinetown, a parody about a futuristic society where people have pay to 'use the bathroom' in the spring . . . Bea Arthur: Just Between Friends - rather like Elaine Stritch: At Liberty but taller . . . Jekyll And Hyde, book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn, produced by David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment . . . Mel Brooks record breaking Tony Award winning musical The Producers, possibly with original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, is now scheduled for 2004.

Still looking for a West End home after regional productions/tours:

Mum's The Word a Canadian comedy about new mothers with Beverley Callard, Tina Malone and Julia Watson . . . Edward Woodward as the 1950s television legend in Leonard Preston's Goodbye Gilbert Harding . . . the Off Broadway hit Dirty Blonde, the 'comedy with songs about Mae West, written by and starring Claudier Shear (as both a fan and the woman herself), directed by James Lapine.

Still claiming to be alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '02 (some even in '01, '00, '99 or '98) and could make it in '03:

Picasso's Women, a series of monologues by Brian McAvera, which presents contrasting portraits of the painter by women in his life . . . Donald Margulies Pulitzer Prize winning play Dinner With Friends seen at Hampstead Theatre, with Kevin Anderson, Samantha Bond, Elizabeth McGovern and Rolf Saxon in the story of an apparently happy couple who re-examine their relationship when their best friends decide to divorce, directed by Simon Curtis . . . Lyricist Don Black and composer John Barry's musical based on Graham Greene's Brighton Rock . . . the musical version of The Three Musketeers, with book by Peter Raby, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh, which was runner up in the 1996 International Musical Of The Year competition . . . Ray Davies, formerly of The Kinks, is continuing development on a show called Come Dancing after a successful workshop at the National Theatre studio . . . Susan Stroman's revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (the 76 trombones show) . . . Disney's first original musical Aida, based on the same legend which inspired Verdi, with book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice . . . a new production of the musical Footloose, based on the 1984 film, with book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie (who also directed the original production) and music by Tom Snow, directed by Arlene Phillips . . . composer Philip Henderson and film director Shekhar Kapur are working on a musical adaptation of M M Kaye's weighty tome The Far Pavilions, set during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and telling of a love affair between a British officer and an Indian princess, which Michael Ward will produce . . . producer Michael Rose is still working on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, based on Robert Aldrich's 1962 film, with book by Henry Farrell (from his original novel) music by Lee Pockriss, and lyrics by Hal Hackaday, which has played in America with Millicent Martin. . . The Last Of The Mohicans, a musical based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel set in America in 1757 during the colonial wars, when British and French forces set the native Mohican and Huron tribes against each other, written by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, and directed by David Taylor . . . Peter Shaffer's play about the relationship between (Pyotr) Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest . . . the 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country, with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, portraying the backstage drama surrounding the rise to fame of a '60s Motown style girl group, originally staged by Michael Bennett, which S Hoebee is likely to direct here for a battery of producers including Adam Spiegel . . . and Jean de Florette, a musical inspired by the films Jean de Florette and Manons des Sources - but will it feature the famous theme which sold a million pints of lager?